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Originally published Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 8:52 PM

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Pot consultant: Feds should contract with Wash., Colorado to bust illegal growers

The state’s top pot consultant says the federal government should sign contracts with Washington and Colorado that would allow their legal marijuana systems if the two states clamp down on illegal growers and exporters.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Mr. Kleiman’s recommendation, while interesting and perhaps do-able will not... MORE

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The state’s top pot consultant says the federal government should sign contracts with Washington and Colorado that would allow their legal marijuana systems if the two states agree to clamp down on illegal growers and exporters.

Mark Kleiman, a UCLA professor, suggested the contracts as a solution to the lingering tension between new recreational-pot laws in the two states and the federal government, which considers all marijuana illegal.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson did not dismiss Kleiman’s idea. Ferguson said the AG’s office has done its own examination of Kleiman’s proposal and “It’s too soon to say” if it has traction with decision-makers in Olympia and Washington, D.C.

Ferguson did not want to say more about the state’s ongoing discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice. “I’m not ready to get into more detail about what communication is going on with the feds,” Ferguson said.

In an article published Wednesday in the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis, Kleiman said the federal government now seems to have three options: cracking down on legalized pot in Washington and Colorado, acquiescing to legalization or “muddling through” with its current policy of saying only that it continues to review new laws in those two states.

Kleiman sees two better alternatives.

One is for the federal government to grant pot-policy waivers to Washington and Colorado, as it did with states experimenting with welfare reform in the 1990s. But that would require congressional approval, which Kleiman believes is unlikely in the short-term.

The other is for the feds to sign contractual agreements with Colorado and Washington calling for the states to help the feds crack down on illegal growers and exporters. In exchange, the feds would allow the two states’ legal systems to move ahead. Kleiman said such contracts are allowed under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Kleiman contends that the Drug Enforcement Administration lacks the resources to enforce pot laws across the country; it needs help from state and local law enforcement.

“When two parties can help each other, there’s the basis for a bargain. And the law provides for precisely such a bargain,” said Kleiman, co-author of “Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

While Kleiman believes his contractual idea would be the best way for the feds to allow legal pot in Washington and Colorado, he predicted they will continue with the “waffling option.”

He said he did not speak with Ferguson or the state Liquor Control Board, the agency implementing a regulated recreational-marijuana system, about his proposals. A spokesman for the Liquor Control Board declined to comment.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

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